What is Telecommunications Relay Service?
Telecommunications Relay Service is a telephone service that allows persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. TRS is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories for local and/or long distance calls. TRS providers – generally telephone companies – are compensated for the costs of providing TRS from either a state or a federal fund. There is no cost to the TRS user.
How does TRS work?
TRS uses operators, called communications assistants (CAs), to facilitate telephone calls between people with hearing and speech disabilities and other individuals. A TRS call may be initiated by either a person with a hearing or speech disability, or a person without such disability. When a person with a hearing or speech disability initiates a TRS call, the person uses a teletypewriter (TTY) or other text input device to call the TRS relay center, and gives a CA the number of the party that he or she wants to call. The CA places an outbound traditional voice call to that person, then serves as a link for the call, relaying the text of the calling party in voice to the called party, and converting to text what the called party voices back to the calling party.
What forms of TRS are available?
There are several forms of TRS, depending on the particular needs of the user and the equipment available:
Text-to-Voice TTY-based TRS is a “traditional” TRS service using a TTY to call the CA at the relay center.
Voice Carry Over allows a person with a hearing disability, but who wants to use his or her own voice, to speak directly to the called party and receive responses in text from the CA. No typing is required by the calling party.
Speech-to-Speech Relay Service is used by a person with a speech disability. A CA (who is specially trained in understanding a variety of speech disorders) repeats what the caller says in a manner that makes the caller’s words clear and understandable to the called party. No special telephone is needed.
Shared Non-English Language Relay Services – Due to the large number of Spanish speakers in the United States, the FCC requires interstate TRS providers to offer Spanish-to-Spanish traditional TRS. Although Spanish language relay is not required for intrastate (within a state) TRS, many states with large numbers of Spanish speakers offer this service on a voluntary basis.
Captioned Telephone Service is used by persons with a hearing disability but some residual hearing. It uses a special telephone that has a text screen to display captions of what the other party to the conversation is saying. A captioned telephone allows the user, on one line, to speak to the called party and to simultaneously listen to the other party and read captions of what the other party is saying.
IP Captioned Telephone Service combines elements of captioned telephone service and IP Relay. IP captioned telephone service can be provided in a variety of ways, but uses the Internet – rather than the telephone network – to provide the link and captions between the caller with a hearing disability and the CA. It allows the user to simultaneously both listen to, and read the text of, what the other party in a telephone conversation is saying.
Internet Protocol Relay Service is a text-based form of TRS that uses the Internet, rather than traditional telephone lines, for the leg of the call between the person with a hearing or speech disability and the CA.
Video Relay Service (VRS) – This Internet-based form of TRS allows persons whose primary language is American Sign Language to communicate with the CA in ASL using video conferencing equipment. The CA speaks what is signed to the called party, and signs the called party’s response back to the caller.
711 Access to TRS
Just as you can call 411 for information, you can dial 711 to connect to certain forms of TRS anywhere in the United States. Dialing 711 makes it easier for travelers to use TRS because they do not have to remember TRS numbers in every state.
Where Can I Find TRS Providers?